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Victory for mining affected communities

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The Pretoria High Court has today recognised mining affected communities as core stakeholders who must be consulted on Mining Charter

The Pretoria High Court has today ordered that the Mining Charter challenge be postponed in order for the President to start an inclusive consultation process in revisiting the Charter. The Court, in granting the postponement, declared mining affected communities and networks are core stakeholders for the purpose of consultation.

Today, the Pretoria High Court heard argument on the postponement of the Mining Charter review sought by the Minister of Mineral Resources. The review hearing was scheduled to begin today, but over the weekend, the Presidency intervened to facilitate an agreement between the Chamber of Mines and the Minister to postpone the case. Unfortunately, the seven other community applicants were not engaged before this agreement was reached, but merely notified last night after the fact.

This is part of a pattern of sidelining mining affected communities from engaging on laws and policies that affect them directly. Instead, they continue to bear the burden of mining while being entirely disregarded in all decision making that impact them. This constant exclusion is what led communities and community networks to approach the Court in the first place. MACUA, WAMUA and MEJCON-SA, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, were joined to the matter in November 2017. They have asked the Court to set aside the Charter for a lack of engagement with communities and recognise that communities are core stakeholders in negotiations around the Mining Charter going forward.

The Court today declared that the matter should be postponed in order for the President to start an inclusive consultation process going forward. The Court further recognised that the community applicants’ concerns about being excluded from the process should be taken seriously. The order recognises the seven community applicants as interested and relevant stakeholders for the purposes of consultation on the Mining Charter going forward.

“This is a historic victory for mining affected communities, who now conclusively have a seat at the negotiation table,” says Wandisa Phama, attorney at CALS.

“We are the people most affected by mining activity,” says Elton Thobejane, deputy chairperson of MEJCON-SA. “What the Court has done for us to day is recognise that those who bear the costs of mining must be taken seriously. Mining affected communities must be involved in the design of the Charter and the Court order strengthens our position to do so.”

“The Court has recognised that our concerns are equally important as those of the mining industry,” says Meshack Mbangula, national co-ordinator at MACUA. “We hope that what this order means is that every time the Department consults with the Chamber of Mines, we are also consulted.”

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